- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 2134 KB
- Print Length: 452 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0425184501
- Publisher: IPS Books (28 Dec. 2012)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00AUW0QES
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,266,226 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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A Damned Fine War: A Novel of Alternate History Kindle Edition
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The premise of this book is that within a couple of months of the war against Nazi Germany coming to an end, Josef Stalin orders the Red Army to attack the Western Allies in Germany. He has decided that NOW is the time for the Comintern to take over the world, starting with Poland, Austria, Germany, France, and the Benelux countries. The Red Army strikes west in a tidal blow the United States and Great Britain are not prepared for. This is especially true of the US Army and US Army Air Force, whose European strength was being transferred to the Pacific Theater for use against Japan in the upcoming Operation Downfall, the invasion and conquering of the Home Islands of Japan.
When the Soviets make their move, they begin by attacking the 26th Armored Infantry Regiment. One sergeant, Nate McKinley, who had gone out for a predawn walk to take some pictures with a recently acquired Leica camera, witnesses and documents the execution of American soldiers by the invading Russians. He successfully evades capture, makes it south to other Americans in a Lend-Lease jeep he acquired by killing the Red Army soldiers driving it with an M1911A1 pistol, and is drafted by General Patton as his new driver. McKinley becomes one of two characters through whose eyes the story is seen.
The other is a young woman, a reporter for the fictional Washing Herald, Rose O'Leary. Sent by her editor to cover the San Francisco Conference which in real history established the United Nations, through a combination of luck and excellent reporter's instinct she obtains an interview with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov. Following the interview, she sees what looks like a war room on the hotel floor the Soviet delegation has taken, and later slips back and enters it. The maps are of Western Europe and show arrows marking routes of advance, culminating at Paris, France. She takes one carbon copy of a page listing distances from various points to various targets as proof she did not invent this story. But there is one additional map, this one of the United States, with red stars placed on New York, Boston, other major cities on the East Coast -- and one red star in New Mexico, for some reason. O'Leary wangles an interview with Edward Stettinius, the U.S. Secretary of State, and tells him what she saw and what her conclusions are. Her reputation as a newshen is secured when the Soviets attack.
The Red Army proceeds to kick the hell out of Bradley's 12th Army Group and Montgomery's 21st Army Group, forcing the Brits to do "another Dunkirk" out of Holland and driving Bradley out of the American Occupation Zone all the way back to Belgium. Congress and the British Parliament both declare war against the Soviet Union, and both nations reverse their demobilization and send the troops back to Europe, although reconstitution of the two militaries will take a couple of months. President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill both presume that it will be some months before the two Western Allies have their acts back together enough to begin offensive operations.
They reckoned without General George S. Patton.
Leery of attacking Third Army because of the reputation of its commander, when the Reds finally do move against him Patton outmaneuvers and outfights them despite being outnumber 3 to 2. Patton moves from victory to victory against the Communists, taking on and beating their best. Following the death of General Eisenhower in a plane crash, both Bradley and Montgomery expect to receive the top command of Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Monty because he believes it's Britain's turn and he is the senior army group commander in the theater, Bradley because he is an army group commander and the late Eisenhower's protoge. Considering that Monty got thrown clean off the Continent and Bradley was pushed back hundreds of miles before he could stabilize his front, it should not have come as a surprise to them when Truman and Churchill appoint Patton to the SACEUR job.
Our two "little people," Patton's driver and the girl reporter, meet in Paris while Patton confers with the President and the Prime Minister. As McKinley's photos had appeared in every newspaper, she wanted to meet him and talk to him about the war and what it meant. The article she wrote after the interview, reflecting his views and particularly that unlike any other army in history following its flag to war, the American flag was not the flag of a conqueror but rather that of a liberator, eventually earns her a Pulitzer Prize and will have world-changing consequences. Coincidentally, both Rosie and Nate are stricken by "the thunderbolt," instantly falling in love with each other, but both being too shy to express what they feel.
Following a strategy of "hittin' 'em where they ain't," Patton systematically destroys the Red Army in Europe, killing, capturing, or taking the surrender of every Soviet army he faces. Then, following political machinations on both sides of the battle line, he turns east, determined to kill or capture the Soviet leadership, especially the "Man of Steel," Josef Stalin, whose ambitions to take over the world started this Third World War. But it is now autumn,1945; and Stalin has one ally left: General Winter, who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. Can "Old Blood and Guts" do what an emperor and a dictator failed to do and conquer Russia before the snow flies?
A friend of mine recommended A Damned Fine War to me as excellent alternate history. Yenne presumes that anyone reading his book is familiar with the players from other reading and history classes, with the result that their characters are not terribly well developed or presented. This makes the read flat. It can be seen as either a somewhat fleshed out history book, or a novel that needs a serious rewrite to improve the characterization. I won't say that I found it disappointing, but I do think Yenne could have done a better job with the non-battle-related portions of the book.
I will say one thing more: Yenne needs to go spend a fair bit of time among shooters before he tries writing any scenes involving firearms again. He makes firearms mistakes that reach the level of blunders. Three examples:
The Model 1895 Nagant revolver featured in three or four scenes is a SEVEN-shooter, not a six-shooter like Patton's two revolvers. It is a Gasser-type revolver which does not have a swing-out crane and star extractor as its American contemporaries do -- it must be loaded and unloaded one round at a time, like a Colt Peacemaker. (I own a Nagant and shoot it, and am speaking from practical experience.)
On a number of occasions, Yenne has McKinley shooting an M1911A1 .45 ACP pistol, the standard US Army sidearm from 1911 to 1986, and emptying the magazine. He then has the firing pin click on an empty chamber. A revolver like either of Patton's two pistols will do that, but the 1911 will not. When the last round fires, the slide locks back, telling the shooter he's out of ammo and has to reload. This is an error so glaring as to defy belief. (I own a 1911 pistol and shoot it. Again, speaking from practical experience.)
At one point, McKinley is attacked by a Red Army soldier armed with an SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. The SVT-40 was tried on the Eastern Front by the Red Army, but it was not a success. Tens of thousands of them were captured by the Germans and the Finns, and they were withdrawn in favor of the Mosin Nagant bolt action that had been the standard Red Army rifle since 1917, along with the PPSH-41 submachine gun. It is just barely possible a Red Army soldier was carrying one in 1945, but so improbable as to defy belief.
And let's not even mention the US GI armed with an M-14 in 1945. That is probably a simple typo. At least, I hope it is.
The book starts from an excellent "What if?" point and organically develops from that point. None of the characters behaves in an unbelievable way for their place and time. The climax of the book is exciting and fits in perfectly with Patton's warrior worldview. I could have done with a lot less of the Washington, DC political machinations; I feel they slow the book down for no good reason. That's a personal prejudice, however; some people like that sort of thing. This is an excellent book for a day at the beach, or lying in a hammock in the back yard on a sunny day, or for a cross-country flight where you are stuck in a winged aluminum tube with nothing much to do. However, I question whether you will like it well enough to read more than once. Twice, at the outside. Yenne really should have rewritten this at least once more to make it flow more smoothly.